Empty Sky

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic

A one-act play based on the events of 9/11.



By Catherine O’Connor

In memoriam of lives lost due to the events that occurred on September 11th, 2001, at 8:46 am, at the World Trade Center in New York City.



This, by nature, is not a happy play. From the overture to lights up to blackout, we as audience members must realize that what we are experiencing is completely real – this is not a play of imagination. While the characters are fictional, they are representative of the whole 2,996 people who died that morning, and they are representative of their families and friends. They represent America, in all its facets and forms, and, sometimes, they represent our battles lost, battles waged with no rhyme or reason or compromise, battles that saw the blood of every human being to ever die for the sake of political and religious disagreements. Nationality, gender, age, status – none of that matters. When it boils down to it, all of these characters are the same: they are afraid, and they are human. That is all that we need to know.



WILL A young man, late twenties. He is constantly enveloped in his work, though he doesn't seem to enjoy it much. To him, it is a means to an end. He is in the process of closing a yearlong business deal, which haunts him almost every day and often makes him a very negative person to be around.

NATALIE WILL's fiancée, about the same age as him. She is a healthy young woman who is eager to start her life with WILL, but his constant stressing about his job keeps her from this. Despite this, she remains optimistic about the future.

JENNA NATALIE's best friend who is letting her and WILL stay in her apartment while WILL finishes his business. She is the same age as NATALIE, but appears to be much more successful in her job – JENNA's first priority is her own wellbeing. She has a heavy New York accent, being a native of the city. She is sassy, but cares very much for NATALIE and WILL.




The sound of a lively city, somewhat muffled, fills the space. Lights up on a modern NYC apartment kitchen/living room combo, with large windows that seem to pan from the floor all the way into the sky. These window frames on the edge of the stage look down upon the audience members, as if they were the streets below. The windows offer a stunning view of the city's skyline and a sky that couldn't be any bluer. It is as beautiful a morning as ever. In front of the windows is a couch with a suit jacket draped on its back and a coffee table, and to the right is the kitchen, complete with dark-wood cabinets and a stunning island. In the kitchen, NATALIE pours two cups of coffee from a pot, and seems to be very precise about how much sugar and creamer she puts in each mug. WILL stands by the windows, gazing out onto the streets below. With a smile, NATALIE crosses to him and hands him his coffee. WILL takes it with a nod. A moment of silence passes as NATALIE presses a kiss to WILL's cheek.

NATALIE: 'Morning.

A beat passes – NATALIE doesn't appear to notice how lost in thought WILL is.

WILL: City's too damn loud.

NATALIE: Yeah. (She sits down on the couch.) Lively, though.

WILL: Too lively. I mean, look. (He walks closer to the windows, addressing the audience as the city below.) There must be about three thousand people down there, just on this street, runnin' back and forth, meetings to go to, promotions to earn, asses to kiss... Everyone wants to move to New York. Y'get lost in New York. No one knows your name unless you're famous or dead or both. Never the same faces on the sidewalk, never the same barista handin' you your coffee every morning...

NATALIE: What are you talking about? I'm your barista and I make your coffee the same way every day. (She smiles and rises from the couch to wrap her arms around him affectionately.) Did you ever think that maybe that's why they come to the city? To be anonymous without really being anonymous? Everyone knows New York – that's their identity. The Big Apple, the Empire State, the World Trade Center... (She nudges him playfully on the last phrase.) It's a community.

WILL: More like branding. (He scoffs.) NYC. Might as well wear an “I heart NY” t-shirt, just to make sure everyone knows where you're from.

NATALIE: Don't be so pessimistic. It's great here.

WILL: Wish we could go back to Buffalo.

NATALIE: Buffalo’s the same as here, only smaller. And duller.

WILL: Yeah, but it's home.

NATALIE: Well, maybe it's time to find a new home. I don't mean that it has to be here, but we don't have to sell ourselves to just one place. After you close the deal on Moreno’s – maybe we could travel some? (Getting increasingly excited) You could take me to Boston. Or Chicago! Maybe we could even go to the Keys for Christmas?

WILL: That's if we close the deal. If I nail this breakfast.

NATALIE: Stop talking like that. Of course you're going to.

WILL: I'm just being realistic. Last time I spoke to him, Stanton didn't seem enthusiastic about the project at all.

NATALIE: Well, this is your chance to warm him up to it. Show him how beneficial it'll be to the community.

WILL: He's not gonna care.

NATALIE: Will. He's holding this meeting at Windows on the World. If he didn't think it was important, he'd be hosting it at IHOP. This is huge, and Stanton knows that. And, even if the deal falls through, at least you'll have a hell of a breakfast.

WILL: (He finally cracks a smile.) I'll bring you back some eggs or toast or something. Promise.

NATALIE: (laughing) You better.

They embrace. JENNA enters from SR, hands full of plastic grocery bags. Her hair is mussed, she's dressed in sweaty workout clothes, and she appears to be out of breath. With great relief, she places the bags down heavily on the kitchen counter before turning towards the couple.

JENNA: Elevator's out of order again.

NATALIE: Again? Jeez, Jenna, for the amount of money you pay for this place, you'd think –

JENNA: We. The amount of money we pay for this place.

NATALIE: Of course, Jenna. That's what I meant.

JENNA: Good. (She turns to the groceries and starts to unpack them.) Don't want you guys skimping' out on your last month's rent. You save some coffee for me?

NATALIE: In the pot.

JENNA: Thanks. Hey Will, don't you got that big meeting tomorrow morning?

WILL: …It's today. At 9.

JENNA: Oh, wow. Hey, do a good job, alright? Don't want you guys hangin' around here for another month, makin' messes and takin' up space. (Beat. She breaks into laughter.) I'm just kiddin'. God, do neither of ya know how to take a joke? You know I love havin' my baby girl around here with me. (She crosses to NATALIE and squeezes her tightly.) Shoulda married me instead of this hunk. I'm just kiddin'. You guys are like the Marilyn Monroe and John F. Kennedy of 2001. Couple of the year. When you guys get married I better be your freakin' maid of honor, alright? I'm holdin' you to that.

NATALIE rolls her eyes playfully as JENNA makes her way back to the groceries, rustling the plastic as she puts things back where they belong. WILL glances at his watch.

WILL: I have to go soon.

NATALIE: No, can't you stay a few more minutes? There was –

WILL: I would if I could but I can't, babe. You know I have to get there on time.

NATALIE: Oh, come on. Five minutes isn't gonna make you late. Just sit and talk with us. This might be the last time we all get to hang out for a while before we move. Please? Five minutes?

JENNA: C'mon Will, just have another cup of coffee with us.

WILL: I'm sorry, I can't. I have to make a good impression, or they're not going to take this proposal seriously.

The girls watch as WILL pulls on the suit jacket and fixes his hair. He crosses to NATALIE and pulls her in for a chaste kiss. She turns her head and gives him her cheek, obviously frustrated.

WILL: Natalie, don't be like that. If you really want to go to the Keys this Christmas, you have to let me go, okay? (He waits for a response, but there is none.) I love you. I'll see you when I get home. (He turns to leave.)

NATALIE: Wait – (She stops him to straighten his tie, a dim smile pulling at her lips.) You're going to be amazing, got it?

WILL nods with an unsure smile, one that is purely for her benefit. They embrace.

NATALIE: See ya later, alligator.

WILL: In a while, crocodile.

WILL presses a soft kiss to her lips and then exits off SR, picking up a leather briefcase by the exit before leaving. Beat.

JENNA: That boy worries too much.

NATALIE: (She sighs.) I know.

JENNA: Nice kid though; I'll give him that. Got a good head on his shoulders, responsible, cares for you... (Teasing) You found yourself a keeper, Miss Crocodile.

NATALIE: (blushing) Oh, shut up. Don't you have some Pilates to do or something?

JENNA: No, I'm being serious. Will's a good guy. Don't let 'im slip out of your fingers, y'got that? Otherwise I might have to snatch him up for myself.

NATALIE: Don't say that.

JENNA: I'm kiddin'; you know that. Trust me, he's not my type. Too respectable. But for you? Couldn't've picked a better match if I tried. (Beat.) Hang onto him.

NATALIE: I'm planning on it.

JENNA: (Pause.) He really loves you, Natalie. I hope you know that.

JENNA exits.

NATALIE: (to herself) I do.



When the lights come up, the groceries are gone, and NATALIE’s cellphone is on the island. NATALIE is folded up on the couch with a book, which she doesn't appear to be reading. Instead, she gazes out the window, contemplating, perhaps about what WILL said earlier about the thousands of people running around aimlessly.

NATALIE: (to herself) He was right. Everyone’s so tiny.

JENNA enters from SL, an mp3 player in hand, dancing and belting “Baby One More Time” at the top of her lungs. She may even get some of the lyrics incorrect. NATALIE jumps, startled by JENNA's sudden and disruptive appearance. JENNA takes an ear bud out to speak to NATALIE – she half-shouts over the music in her ear.

JENNA: Whatcha lookin’ at?

JENNA makes an attempt to squint out the window, as if something interesting is going on outside, but the streets below are as normal as ever.

NATALIE: Oh – nothing, sorry. I was just... worrying about Will, you know? I mean I know he's probably doing just fine, but this is such a huge deal for him… He gets so nervous…

JENNA: Sounds like you’re the one who needs to calm down.

NATALIE: I am calm, I’m just –

JENNA: Worrying about him isn’t gonna change anything. If Will fucks up, he fucks up. Whatever happens to him is out of your control. So relax.

NATALIE: (She nods) Okay.

JENNA crosses to the kitchen, fishing loudly through cupboards for a protein bar. Once she finds one, she makes a big fuss over opening it and chews it somewhat obnoxiously.

JENNA: (Through bites) Good. Hey, we still on for that run tonight? I promised ya I was gonna help you shave down that mile.

NATALIE: Yeah, definitely. (She gets up and straightens her shirt.) I was thinking we order Panda Express tonight? I’m not in the mood to cook. And it’s Tuesday, so free spring rolls.

JENNA: If you order that crappy faux-Chinese dumpster shit again, I’m gonna flush it all down the toilet where it belongs.

NATALIE: (Rolling her eyes) It’s not that bad.

JENNA: The hell it’s not. Their noodles aren’t even good enough for rats. Which, by the way, is probably what their meat’s made of.

NATALIE: Mhmm, sure.

JENNA: Hey, you wanna trust that place? Fine by me. Just don’t come cryin’ to me when you’re gettin’ your stomach pumped.

NATALIE opens her mouth to retaliate when her cellphone on the island rings.

NATALIE: Oh, that’s probably Tanner. Jenna, can you get tha—

JENNA: (Already picking up the phone) Already got it. (She answers, mouth full of protein bar.) Hello, Natalie’s phone. (Long pause. She swallows and immediately looks worried.) W-What? (Pause.) Oh – Oh, yeah, yeah, okay, just let me, um, hold on –

NATALIE perks up at the change in JENNA’s voice. JENNA covers the receiver with her palm and speaks to NATALIE.

JENNA: It’s Will. He – somethin' bad's happened, at the building, I –

Suddenly concerned, NATALIE quickly bridges the distance between her and JENNA, reaching out for the phone.

NATALIE: What is it?

JENNA: The north building – he said there was an accident – I'm gonna check the news.

JENNA exits quickly SL. NATALIE presses the phone up to her ear anxiously. WILL appears in a spotlight downstage, as if separated from the home. He holds a phone to his ear, and his clothes are covered in plaster.

NATALIE: Will, are you okay? Please tell me you're okay. Please tell me –

WILL: Yeah, I'm fine, I – (He breaks into a coughing fit.)

NATALIE: What happened?

WILL: I don't know; there's smoke everywhere. I think there was an explosion, or a bomb, or  – (He coughs violently again.)

NATALIE: Oh my God.

WILL: Natalie, I… Stanton's looking for an exit – the firemen are on their way up, but it's so hot, even the floor is hot... There's so much smoke. A few people are trying to break open a window; it's so hard to breathe, I can't –

NATALIE: Oh my God. Just stay on the phone with me, okay? I’ll be there as soon as possible –

WILL: No, no, no, no, stay there. I don't want you near the building –

NATALIE: No Will, I have to come see you, I have to make sure you get out alright –

WILL: I will, I promise. But stay there, okay? I just wanted to let you know that I'm alright. I'll call you as soon as we find our way out.

NATALIE: No, stay on the line, please.

WILL: I can't Natalie; people here are having trouble breathing; I have to help...

NATALIE: Please don't go.

The spotlight on WILL begins to flicker, and his voice begins to break up.

WILL: Ev – fine, oka – They're coming – just st – safe, please – I love –

WILL's light goes out, and so does his communication. NATALIE frantically calls into the phone.

NATALIE: Will? Will! Can you hear me? Will! WILL! Answer me; tell me you can hear me...

The dial tone plays. JENNA reenters, a hand pressed to her mouth in concern, watching NATALIE scream frantically into the phone. Struggling to maintain her composure, JENNA steps forward to gently take the phone from NATALIE's hands, but NATALIE won't let go.

NATALIE: No, give it to me –

JENNA: (softly) Let it go, honey, please.

NATALIE: No, I have to speak to him, I have to call him back, I have to –

JENNA succeeds in prying the phone from NATALIE's hands, which causes NATALIE to break down in violent sobs, sinking to the floor. JENNA, overwhelmed, kneels down beside her, bringing NATALIE's crumpled figure into her embrace, hushing her softly. NATALIE sobs inconsolably for what seems like forever. Finally, her sobs recede to faint heaves. Nothing besides her crying can be heard – the city has gone eerily silent. A single siren blazes by outside the window, faint and almost unreal.

NATALIE: The connection just dropped, that's all; we have to try again. We have to try –

She reaches feebly for the phone, but JENNA intercepts her. Beat.

JENNA: It's not just a fire, Natalie. It was a plane –

This news hits NATALIE like falling debris.

JENNA: (continuing) – and another one just hit the south tower. (Beat.) They're doing everything they can; they're trying to evacuate the buildings, they've got the police, the fire department going up to rescue people, but –

NATALIE: (realizing) But he's on the 107th floor.

The girls freeze in their position, and the set behind them begins to be taken apart. Sirens and the sound of crackling fire can be heard, and all that's left standing are the three windows. WILL stands, facing the audience, in the frame of the middle window, hands pressed against the wooden frame. He is struggling to breathe. The sirens seem to be coming from below him now, increasing in volume as the flames do too. The world appears to be crashing down around him – the silhouette of the girls seemingly untouched. He is calm. He looks once over his shoulder – as if seeing NATALIE and JENNA, two figures morphed into one. Then, without any noise at all, he seems to inch towards the edge of the window. His feet leave the sill.



Submitted: October 15, 2015

© Copyright 2022 catherinexelizabeth. All rights reserved.

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